Connect with us


Lesbian restaurant owner appeals for help in dispute

Hank’s Oyster Bar forced to close part of patio during Pride



Jamie Leeds (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The lesbian owner of a popular seafood restaurant along the 17th Street business district near Dupont Circle is asking the community to support the repeal of a city law that she says allowed six people to force her to reduce her outdoor seating capacity from 40 to 20 customers.

Jamie Leeds, the chef and owner of Hank’s Oyster Bar at 1624 Q Street, N.W., issued a statement over the weekend informing customers and supporters that inspectors with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board ordered her on Friday night, June 8, to close half of the restaurant’s patio space.

Leeds said that the order came the day before the annual Capital Pride Parade was to travel past her patio, limiting the number of patrons who wanted to dine on the patio while watching the parade.

“This action shutting down half of our outdoor patio on the night before the annual parade was the result of one of the license protestants phoning in a complaint to the city, and occurs before we have even had a hearing before the ABC Board,” Leeds said in an open letter to the community.

“The ongoing harassment by this small band of residents is astonishing and the timing of this individual’s complaint before the annual celebration is despicable,” she wrote in her letter.

Leeds’ call for the repeal of the law that allows as few as five citizens to contest liquor license applications comes at a time when gay and straight nightlife advocates have urged gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) to consider introducing legislation to ease what the advocates say are overly burdensome regulations pertaining to such businesses. Graham chairs the Council committee that oversees the city’s liquor laws and the agency that enforces them.

Michael Hibey, the attorney representing the six residents opposing Hank’s Oyster Bar’s use of the expanded outdoor seating, declined to comment. David J. Mallof, one of the six nearby residents who has taken a lead role in opposing Hank’s expansion of its outdoor seating, also declined to comment.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach the other five residents opposing the termination of the voluntary agreement. They are: Alexis Rieffel, Ralph N. Johnson, Susan Meehan, Michael Fasano and Patricia E. Steele.

Fred Moosally, director of the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which oversees the ABC Board, confirmed on Monday that the inspectors responded to a complaint by a representative of the six residents opposed to the restaurant’s expansion.

But Moosally told the Blade that the call for restricting the patio’s use was in response to a May 17 D.C. Court of Appeals decision ordering the city to reinstate a document known as a voluntary agreement between Leeds and the six residents. The agreement bars Hank’s from expanding its patio or any part of the restaurant beyond the space it occupied at the time it opened in 2005.

At Leeds’ request and following an earlier hearing, the board terminated the voluntary agreement in 2010, allowing her to expand into outdoor and indoor space in an adjacent building that became vacant that year.

The six residents appealed the board’s action to the Court of Appeals. The court voided the board’s order terminating the voluntary agreement and remanded the case back to the board. It instructed the board to consider two issues the court said the board was legally required to consider but failed to do so at the time it terminated the voluntary agreement.

Moosally said ABC Board inspectors informed Leeds on June 2 during a visit to the restaurant of the court ruling and its effect of reinstating her voluntary agreement. Although he didn’t say so directly, he implied that Hank’s knew more than a week before the Pride parade that it couldn’t use the full space of the patio at the time of the June 9 parade.

Andrew Kline, a licensing counsel representing Leeds before the ABC Board, disputes Moosally’s assessment, saying he believes the board had to take “another step” of rescinding its 2010 order terminating the voluntary agreement before it could require Hank’s to give up use of the full patio.

Kline said the court decision didn’t prevent the board from allowing Hank’s to continue to use its full patio while the board deliberates over its decision, as mandated by the court, to make a determination on whether the voluntary agreement should once again be terminated.

The board scheduled a hearing on Wednesday, June 13, to address issues that the appeals court said must be resolved before the board can make a final decision on whether to retain or terminate the voluntary agreement.

The court decision was the latest development in a seven-year dispute between Hank’s Oyster Bar and the handful of nearby residents, who have contested the restaurant’s liquor license in an effort to obtain restrictions through the voluntary agreement.

Leeds says in her letter that she was pressured into signing the voluntary agreement in 2005, the year she opened the restaurant, as a condition to end a formal protest of the license by the six residents. She said the license protest could have dragged on for months, delaying her ability to obtain a liquor license and jeopardizing her ability to open her new business.

Most observers following the dispute, including LGBT activists, believe Hank’s opponents are motivated by an aversion to an “overconcentration” of liquor serving establishments on 17th Street, which the opponents say have the potential for causing neighborhood disturbances. Most observers don’t think the opponents of Hank’s expansion are motivated by anti-gay sentiment.

Hank's Oyster Bar (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

But many LGBT activists have teamed up with nightlife advocates in calling on the City Council to repeal the law that gives as few as five residents legal standing to challenge a liquor license and push for restrictions similar to those in the voluntary agreement signed by Hank’s.

They point out that Hank’s has never caused any problems in the neighborhood, either before or after it expanded its operations into the adjacent space in 2011.

Although the ABC Board makes the final decision on approving a voluntary agreement or approving restrictions on the operation of bars and restaurants, business owners have said a protest by a “gang of five,” as the business owners have called the protesting residents, can hold up a license for months. They say the delays result in high monetary costs for legal fees and the cost of renting spaces that can’t generate revenue until the license is approved.

One proposal offered by nightlife advocates is to eliminate the existing provision of the liquor law that gives five or more citizens authority to contest liquor licenses and restrict that authority to the elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. ANC’s currently have that authority.

“If you agree that allowing a small number of individuals to dictate what happens in our community is wrong, please contact ABRA; Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans; Council member Jim Graham, chair of the committee that oversees ABC [Board issues]; and Mayor Vincent Gray,” Leeds said in her open letter. “The right of a group of 5 residents to hold up a license application should be eliminated from the law.”

Leeds’ letter came two days after Mayor Gray told a joint Capital Pride-Washington Blade town hall meeting that he was concerned over the ability of just five people to block licensing applications for businesses such as restaurants.

“I don’t think a small handful of people should be given the opportunity to unreasonably hold up action on something that a preponderance of the people want to move forward on,” Gray said.

“I have always believed that most so-called ‘voluntary agreements’ are actually ‘coerced’ agreements,’” said gay activist Peter Rosenstein, who lives about two blocks from Hank’s.

“[T]his case should convince the City Council and the mayor to change the law,” Rosenstein said. “We live in a democracy and allowing a complaint by five people to determine what is seating capacity for a restaurant is clearly not democracy.”

Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and a resident of 17th Street near Hank’s Oyster Bar, characterized as “outrageous” the action by the six residents to restrict Hank’s patio usage.

“It is absurd and harmful, and D.C. Council members and Mayor Gray need to hear from people who appreciate that the neighborhood and the city are not served by allowing small, unrepresentative groups to hold everyone else hostage to their cramped, entitlement-drenched desire to turn thriving urban neighborhoods into quiet suburbs,” Rosendall said.

One of the court’s requirements is that Leeds makes a “good faith” effort to reach a new voluntary agreement with the six residents, something Leeds doesn’t think is possible.

“[W]e did try to work this out with those opposed to us back when we first sought termination of the VA, but they refused to meet,” she said. “Since the Court of Appeals decision was reached, we offered to address their concerns with a more limited VA, but they insist we cut our outdoor occupancy by 25 percent, even though there have been no complaints.”

The second requirement is to show that the neighborhood has changed since the time the agreement was signed in 2005 that would support terminating the agreement. Kline said one key change that has occurred is the ABC Board repealed part of a longstanding 17th Street moratorium on new liquor licenses that prevented bars and restaurants from laterally expanding to adjacent buildings or properties.

The Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which supports allowing Hank’s to expand its patio, supported the lifting of the moratorium on lateral expansion.

The president of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, Doug Rogers, issued a statement on Monday denouncing the ABC Board’s decision to shut down Hank’s expanded patio operation, saying the board should have waited until after its scheduled hearing on June 13.

“What is even more infuriating is that two toxic people in our neighborhood are allowed to shut down part of a legitimate business and force them to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees,” Rogers said in his statement. “Their ability to do this should be eliminated from D.C. law, and I urge Mayor Gray and the D.C. Council to reform D.C.’s archaic regulatory laws.”


Continue Reading


  1. Jimmy

    June 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Entities have rights the same as citizen’s do. Have they been violated?

  2. DC for 8 Years

    June 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I’ve lived in DC for 8 years and have watched 17th Street evolve. Of all places, Hanks has been one of most admirable additions. Hanks is a restaurant and not a bar or nightclub with pulsating music and late night crowds. These neighbors are ridiculous. I’d take a good restaurant neighbor anytime.

  3. DC Resident

    June 14, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I’m sorry, but if these are “Long Term Residents” then this could very likely be anti-gay sentiment. This area used to be horrible and the people who lived there know it. These businesses have turned this area into a safe and wonderful neighborhood. Fighting against that is ridiculous.

  4. Chief

    June 14, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Hanks customers are continuously blocking the sidewalk, being loud and obnoxious and causing issues. Not to mention drinking on the sidewalk after ordering alcohol at the bar. While i generally agree with the outdoor seating in the district i think “Hanks” may have stepped crossed the line .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


D.C. rejects request by gyms to lift mask mandate

LGBTQ-owned venues sign letter calling requirement ‘devastating’ for business



Owners of two LGBTQ-owned D.C. fitness studios and one gym signed on to a joint letter with the owners of six other similar businesses urging D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt to lift a city mandate requiring patrons of gyms and fitness studios to wear masks. 

The Oct. 4 letter, written by gay businessman Bryan Myers, the CEO and president of a chain of local fitness studios using the trademark name of [solidcore], states that the mask mandate, which applies to people who are fully vaccinated for the coronavirus, is based largely on outdated data pertaining to gyms and fitness studios collected prior to the widespread availability of the COVID vaccine.

“More relevant data to inform decision-making would be to study the data from two, large Northeastern cities that have opted to allow fitness classes to continue with the requirement of vaccination in lieu of a mask requirement,” the letter states. “In both New York City and Philadelphia, which have opted for this approach, we have not seen an increase in the trajectory of the Delta variant,” Myers says in the letter.

In the last week of July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation that cities and local jurisdictions with 50 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents per week, which at that time included D.C., should ask residents to voluntarily resume wearing masks indoors. That same week, Bowser announced she would go one step further by mandating the indoor use of masks in most public places, including gyms and fitness spas or studios. 

Bowser and Nesbitt said their intention was to take immediate steps to curtail the spread of the coronavirus so that the city would not be forced to return to the full shutdown mode, including the closing of businesses, that the mayor lifted earlier this year.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced they would ask residents of their states to consider using masks in crowded indoor spaces as recommended by the CDC, but said they would not require mask use. 

In their letter to Bowser and Nesbitt, the gym and fitness studio owners called on the mayor to provide the same exemption to their businesses as the city has provided for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, which requires masks except when patrons are eating and drinking. 

“While it is true that bars, restaurants, and clubs technically have to follow the same guidelines, we know that in practice, these venues have been granted exceptions by D.C. Health,” the letter says. “On any given night, you can find hundreds of individuals crowded into a U Street bar, at a Capitol Hill restaurant, or thousands at a performance or party at The Anthem enjoying themselves – singing, dancing and physically exerting themselves, shouting – maskless – so long as they have a drink somewhere nearby,” says the letter.

“And to be unequivocally clear, we are not advocating that there is anything wrong with what is happening in other industries or that there be a change to the management of those industries/venues,” the letter continues. “We are simply advocating that we be treated the same as they are.”

The letter adds, “Finally, but perhaps most importantly, the mask mandate for fitness studios and gyms has resulted in devastating financial impact to these businesses – many of which are small locally owned.”

It says patronage has dropped 50 percent for some of the fitness centers and gyms since the mayor’s mask mandate took effect July 29. It points out that the drop in customers comes at a time when many of these businesses have spent thousands of dollars and in some cases hundreds of thousands to upgrade their ventilation and filtration systems and other structural steps to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

Myers told the Washington Blade in a statement that neither the Department of Health nor the mayor’s office replied directly to the gym and fitness studios’ letter.

Channel 7 News reported that in response to its request for the city’s reaction to the gym and fitness studios’ concerns, the Department of Health released a statement saying, “D.C. Health’s stance is that persons should wear masks in gyms and during this time [we] do not have plans to change our stance on this guidance.”

In his statement to the Blade, Myers said the D.C. gym and fitness studios were frustrated and disappointed that the city at this time is not open to reconsidering the mask mandate for gyms and fitness studios, many of which he said are barely surviving.

“This mandate is directly affecting the livelihoods of residents of the District, many of whom are women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ+ in a policy that is simply not equitable, and is steering residents away from services that can help improve the overall health of our community,” Myers said.

Continue Reading


Heather Mizeur congressional campaign raises more than $1M

Former Md. delegate challenging Andy Harris



Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, momentum
Former Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur is running for Congress (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Heather Mizeur has raised more than $1 million in her campaign against anti-LGBTQ Republican Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

“No candidate in #MD01 of either party, incumbent or challenger, has ever hit the $1M milestone this early in the election cycle,” Mizeur tweeted on Oct. 6.

The Victory Fund in an Oct. 8 press release said 80 percent of this $1 million came from Maryland-based donors, “a sign the district is ready for new representation.” And Mizeur continues to outpace Harris, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission that say she raised $717,445 for the cycle ending June 30, while Harris raised $425,288.

“Andy Harris has taken every opportunity to attack and vilify trans individuals, trying to score political points with his base at the expense of the safety of some of his constituents,” Mizeur told the Washington Blade.

In 2014 Harris made the Human Rights Campaign’s “Hall of Shame” for proactively working “to undermine existing legal protections and promote anti-LGBT discrimination.”

“In contrast, the LGBTQ community knows me for my record,” Mizeur said. “And knows I’ll always lead with compassion and stand up for civil and human rights. I think the 1st District will respond to my message of respect and understanding.”

Mizeur, who now lives on the Eastern Shore with her wife, served on the Takoma Park City Council. Mizeur was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates for eight years.

In 2014, she launched a long-shot, grassroots campaign for governor where she finished a strong third in the Democratic primary, despite being outraised by better-known opponents.

But Mizeur also said she is aware of the challenges her team faces in taking on a well-entrenched Republican in a solidly conservative district.

The Cook Partisan Voter Index in 2017 rated the district as R +14, meaning the previous two presidential election results in the district skewed 14 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

“We have over $760,000 in the bank, and we’ve outraised him during our time in the race,” Mizeur said. “We’re raising the money we need to go toe-to-toe with Andy Harris next year.”

The Baltimore Sun in February reported Harris was “flush with campaign cash” mostly due to a 2010 redistricting that “packed” the area with Republican voters to increase Democrats’ chances in other district races.

“Yes, Andy Harris has over $1 million in the bank, stockpiled over a decade in office,” Mizeur said. “But in the short time I’ve been in the race, we’ve cut significantly into his cash on hand advantage.”

Harris has represented the 1st Congressional District—which includes Maryland’s Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties—since 2011 and easily fended off most challenges with at least 60 percent of the vote. These challengers include Mia Mason, a transgender military veteran, who ran against him in 2020.

The 2010 redistricting made Harris’ seat safe enough not only to donate nearly a third of his war chest to conservative groups and candidates, such as U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), but to openly court controversy himself.

Harris last year openly defended then-President Trump’s discredited efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And in December he signed onto an amicus brief supporting a failed lawsuit contesting the presidential election results.

This year he downplayed the violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection in which numerous police officers were attacked, members of Congress were threatened, and the U.S. Capitol was vandalized.

Mizeur told the Blade that while Harris’ actions regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection were the catalyst for her challenging his seat, she feels the district is changing and he no longer represents their interests.

“Our supporters know he’s been embarrassing Maryland in Congress for far too long, and that some of his actions have shown he’s completely unfit to serve in public office, regardless of ideological views,” Mizeur said. “They want someone who will bring compassionate leadership and innovative thinking back to the first district. And that’s appealing to people across party lines.”

Maryland’s primary election is June 28, 2022, and its general election follows on Nov. 8.

Continue Reading


AU student expelled over arrest in attack on gay Asian man, parents

Patrick Trebat no longer affiliated with university



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An American University graduate student who was arrested by D.C. police on Aug. 7 on charges that he assaulted a gay Asian man and the man’s parents while shouting homophobic and anti-Asian slurs “is no longer affiliated with the university and will not be allowed on campus,” according to a report by WTOP News.

In an Oct. 9 broadcast that it updated this week, WTOP said Patrick Trebat, 38, who had been taking a night class at the university’s Kogod School of Business, was banned from returning to the campus.

Charging documents filed in D.C. Superior Court show that Trebat was charged by D.C. police with one count of felony assault, two counts of simple assault and one count of destruction of property for allegedly assaulting and injuring Sean Lai, 30, an out gay man of Chinese ancestry, and his parents on the 3700 block of Fulton Street, N.W., on Aug. 7.

The charging documents say Trebat allegedly began to follow Lai and his parents as they were walking along the street in the city’s Observatory Circle neighborhood near the National Cathedral. According to a statement by a police official from the police district whose officers made the arrest, Trebat punched and kicked the three victims as he stated, “Get out of my country.” The police statement says the family was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

A separate police report says Trebat shouted the word “faggots” at the family and shouted, “You are not Americans!”

Based on these allegations, prosecutors classified the assault charges as an anti-Asian bias related crime, but they did not add an anti-gay classification to the charges.

Court records show that Trebat was released two days after his arrest while awaiting trial under the court’s High Intensity Supervision Program, which, among other things, imposed a curfew requiring him to return home by 10 p.m.

An Oct. 8 story in The Eagle, the American University student newspaper, says it learned that Trebat’s attorney filed a motion in court, which the Washington Blade also discovered from court records, asking a judge to extend the curfew deadline from 10 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. so that Trebat could attend at night class at American University.

The motion, which prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not oppose and the judge approved, identified Trebat in the public court records as an AU graduate student.

According to the Eagle, representatives of the university’s Asian American and LGBTQ student groups criticized university officials for not alerting students that an AU student charged with an anti-Asian hate crime while hurling homophobic slurs had access to the campus and could pose a danger to students.

“Patrick Trebant is not affiliated with American University and is not allowed on campus,” AU told the Blade on Wednesday in a statement. “While we cannot discuss details of an individual matter, when a student has been arrested, charged, convicted of, or sentenced for a felony crime, the university’s student conduct code provides for an administrative adjudication process. The safety of our students and our community is our priority.”

The Eagle reports that the code of conduct states that the dean of students or their designee can administratively adjudicate a case when a student has been accused of a non-academic offense “where the student has been arrested, charged, convicted of, or sentenced for a felony crime” for certain misconduct. The code of conduct applies in a situation in which a student is arrested for an off-campus allegation.

Court records show Trebat is scheduled to return to court at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 15 for a felony status hearing before Superior Court Judge Judith Pipe.

Neither Trebat nor his attorney, Brandi Harden, could immediately be reached for comment.

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts